This Letter of Encouragement was originally published by our ministry friends, Dave & Lis Marr at One Family: https://onefamilyhwl.org/
We were half hugging, Dave’s arms around Lis’ shoulders, Lis’ arms around Dave’s waist. Looking at the room that, just a short time ago, looked so different. We were different. Standing on the edge of an unknown tomorrow, looking into the room, wondering what was next.
The year was 1989 and Dano was only a few days away into our future. We took the spare room and fixed it up. New paint, baby wallpaper half-way up the wall. New furniture – crib, cabinet for baby things, and a big comfy chair where Lis would nurse our newborn on which sat a teddy bear waiting to be loved. As we stood in the doorway in one another’s arms, we had no idea what was in front of us, we could hardly speak.
The year was 2017 and Shelli had just moved all her belongings into her new apartment. We took the last of her furniture in a U-Haul truck thereby leaving us with a spare room. Gone are the bed, the cabinet, the stuffed closet. But remaining, forlorn on the empty carpet sat a stuffed bear whose Toy Story ending had come to pass. As we stood in the doorway in one another’s arms, we had so much behind us, we could hardly speak.
And so you see the bookends of an era, 28 years of family life between Dano’s birth and Shelli’s moving out. Those in-between years characterized by diapers, teddy bears, backpacks, sleepovers, braces, sports, homework, dances, graduations, and long drives to college. Yes, those years were a rich, fun, wonderful life.
And so, too, we had the tense times: Dano’s infant hernia, Shelli’s near miss on her eye, Kevin’s broken foot. The challenges with Lis’ back. The bickering back and forth during our growing up years wondering how to get through Baby Boot Camp with marriage intact. The years when money was Campbell Soup tight and economic promises were based on hope and bravado when credit cards were undisciplined escapes. Yes, there were those times.
But the good times, oh, the good times were plentiful. Watching the kids perform their plays at home. Sleeping under the Christmas tree while waiting for Santa. Building the forts. Helping with the shoelaces and homework, bicycles and prom dresses, Easter egg hunt and Trick-or-Treat, dinners and birthday parties. Watching the sports, the school events, the sports, and more sports. Did we sacrifice? Never. We prioritized. Family first.
The point of this nostalgic ramble is intended to encourage. What are the critical elements to life between the bears? Here are a few thoughts:
Dinner together as much as possible. Conversation not correction. In those 28 years, we probably sat at the dinner table over 40,000 hours together. We shared “Topics”.
Who would you like to have dinner with?
Prayers of thanks, prayers before bed, prayers that accumulate over a lifetime. Regardless of where we were with our own prayer, our kids knew only that we were together in prayer to God, mostly in appreciation.
Commitment to family. Individual successes were cause for family celebrations.
Parenting classes, again and again, helped to push us forward keeping us ahead of our kids’ growing complexity. (Thank you Ezzos!)
Being where you are. Not at work when you’re at home. Not on the phone when you’re at dinner. Not in your head, when you’re together. Being present in each other’s life.
Create a community. Friends bring balance.
Family Identity: Adventure-minded, Open-mindedness. Others-Oriented.
The life we’ve lived between the bears is all we have known as adults. Life before the first bear seems like a dream. And life after the last bear remains a mystery. But you, you who are in between the bears right now with the tumble and stress, sorrow and joy of raising your family, we pray upon you peace. Whatever issues you face, tomorrow will always come….
….all too fast.
Lis and Dave Marr
Lis is a Certified Contact Mom with Christian Family Heritage and lives in the Denver, Colorado area.